JK: Enthusiasm for voting prevails over boycott calls, militant threats

JK: Enthusiasm for voting prevails over boycott calls, militant threats

The last leg of the five-phased Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir today saw enthusiasm prevailing over separatist-sponsored boycott calls and militant threats, as youth and first-time voters turned out in good numbers to exercise their franchise.

The Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency in north Kashmir –- spread over three districts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara -- which went to polls today along with Ladakh, is expected to record a polling percentage higher than what was witnessed in the earlier two phases in the Valley.

Though there was an effect of boycott in Baramulla district particularly in the famous Apple township of Sopore, many polling stations in other areas like Handwara, Langate and Kupwara witnessed brisk polling.

The electorate, including youths and women, had come out to vote early in the morning and waited patiently in lines for their turn. The enthusiasm was especially high among the youths and more so among the first-time voters who said "they were feeling excited" to get their fingers inked.

Proudly displaying their voter slips and inked fingers after casting their votes, the youth said it was "essential" to vote for making their lives better.

"It is very essential to vote in a democracy. And only this way (by voting) can we get rid of our problems like unemployment and mis-governance," Tahir Ahmad, a young voter in Mawar area of Langate in Kupwara district, said.

Langate is the bastion of firebrand Independent MLA Sheikh Abdul Rahsid, who represents the segment in the Assembly.

Most of the youngsters in the area said they had come out to vote for "Engineer", as Rashid is popularly known.

"We have come out in support of Engineer as we think even one vote can make a difference. He is the only leader who talks about us," another voter, who identified himself as Hilal Ahmad, said.

The women voters did not lag behind in enthusiasm and the excitement of voting for the first time helped many of them wait at the polling booths for their turn.

"I am very happy to vote for the first time. I had always wished to come out to vote and got the opportunity today. It is a good feeling," Rahilla, a class 12 student in Sanziwara area of Langate, said.

She said everyone in her family had come to vote and there was no pressure on her to turn up at the polling station. "Though my parents asked me to vote, it was my decision to come out as it feels very exciting to vote for the first time. No one forced me," she said.

There were not only youngsters who voted, an elderly lady and an old man, supported by his grandson and walking stick, also exercised their franchise.

"Voting is necessary as we have to get basic amenities. There is unemployment and youths have nowhere to go. The inflation is rising and there is poverty, we have to change all that," 100-year-old Khadija Begum, who cast her vote in Handwara, said.

She was accompanied by her granddaughter, who also voted. Begum said she had never missed her vote since she attained the voting age.

Ninety-year-old Ghulam Ahmad Tantray, a resident of Langate, said he votes in every election and age will not diminish his enthusiasm for voting. Vehicles were used at many polling stations for ferrying voters like Tantray.

At a polling station – 89 Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Kupwara – the competition among voters was of a different kind. The female voters were keeping pace with their male counterparts to come out and vote.

The booth had recorded 368 votes till 1 pm out of the total 928 and both the sexes had equal participation of 184 votes.

The scene was not the same though at the other booth in the same school, where 387 votes had been cast out of the total 1,067 – the number of female voters was 181 as compared 206 male.

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